The proposal to bring a Scientology-based drug rehabilitation centre to an estate property in Hockley Valley has been met with overwhelming opposition from residents.
At an open house held Tuesday (July 30) at the Hockley Community and Seniors Hall, it was announced that Narconon International, an organization that runs drug rehabilitation clinics around the world, is looking to set up a new centre at 994091 Mono-Adjala Townline.
The 150-acre property is located north of Hwy 9 and is currently listed for sale at $2.9 million.
According to the property listing, the site contains five homes/cottages and has various features including a nine-acre lake, along with an outdoor sauna, a small beach, a tennis court, a workshop, trails and more.
Adjala-Tosorontio Mayor Tom Walsh, who attended the open house, estimates between 100 to 125 people were at the meeting.
It included a presentation mainly from Narconon International president Clark Carr, along with Meridian Planning, the firm looking after the application.
When reached after the session, Carr said it was important to hold the meeting to gauge residents’ thoughts on the proposal.
“It was quite a meeting,” Carr said. “I’ve been in others like these and people feel pretty strongly. But you know what, we communicated a lot. And the people who made up their firm minds, well that’s their right, but I also saw some people hear what we were talking about, and change their minds.”
While an application for the rehab centre has been submitted to the township, it hasn’t been processed yet. Carr said they will be taking all the comments they’ve received into consideration as they decide how to move forward with the proposal.
“There are going to be the standard procedures to follow through and it is a public process,” he said. “This is a democracy and we look forward to that and we’ll see. But we chose this place because we feel it’s right, I sincerely do.”
While he’s aware of some of the controversies around the rehab centres, Walsh said he doesn’t have any concerns to note at this time.
According to CBC, a Narconon-run rehab centre in Trois-Rivières, Que., was shut down in April 2012 after four people were hospitalized because of the detox methods used at the site. Instead of using drugs to break addictions, the program’s clients go cold turkey, undergo sauna treatments and take vitamins.
Carr said the program was shut down because it didn’t fit under the medical model of Quebec.
However, the regional health authority in Quebec said the centre was closed due to lack of medical supervision and no scientific basis for the treatment.
Carr dismisses these claims.
“The program has been looked at very carefully in many countries,” he said. “It’s been in the United States for over 40 years and operated under licences and certifications and accreditations.”
The rehab methods are also based on the self-help teachings of American science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology.
Carr said the church has a friendly relationship with Narconon and supports it through fundraising and volunteering, but the two operate independently from each other.
The proposed site is a short drive from a Church of Scientology retreat, which recently relocated to the former Highlands Inn and Conference Centre property in neighbouring Mono Township.
He said this was a factor in the decision, but overall it was more important to find a secluded site within a reasonable driving distance to Toronto.
Carr believes the centre would benefit the community through drug use prevention education, but many residents feel otherwise.
“I don’t think I want a religious association with that of any kind,” said Hockley resident Claire Morris. “I don’t think that’s necessary and I don’t want that preached to my children. Even if they offer it as a benefit to our community, it’s not one that I would take.”
Morris said the meeting didn’t alleviate her concerns, which include security at the site and questions about the potential impact to surrounding property values.
“We asked about the MPAC stats about what would happen to our property values, and all they could say was ‘Compared to communities where other drug rehabs have gone to, their stats are pretty good.’ Which is really no comfort to me whatsoever,” she said.
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